The use of Technology in Scheduling
As in most facets of business, information technology has had a significant impact on the ability of the manager to schedule workers. Early computer programs for scheduling workers were often cumbersome to use and also very limited in their applications. However, the advent of faster and more powerful computers coupled with newer software programs has resulted in worker scheduling programs that are both significantly more user friendly and,at the same time, more flexible in their applications. The use of .these automated scheduling programs has several advantages. First, it significantly reduces the amount of time a 'manager has to devote to developing a weekly work schedule, Previously, when manually scheduling workers, it was not uncommon for a manager in a complex service environment to devote entire eight-hour day every week to developing a worker schedule for the following week. With an automated scheduling system, managers are no longer required to commit such a large amount of time to scheduling, allowing them more time to devote to actually managing the operation. This results. in a more eff actively managed business. In addition, these software programs typically contain highly sophisticated mathematical formulas designed to minimize labor hours, subject to the constraints and conditions i identified earlier in this chapter (such as the minimum number of hours per shift). Worker productivity is therefore also increased. Thus, by using an automated scheduling system, a more efficient worker schedule can be generated in only a fraction of the time previously required with a manu a!"procedure. ,Many of the automated systems available today are fully integrated systems that consist of several modules. Kronos, Inc .. in Waltham, Massachusetts, one of the leading producers of automated workforce scheduling systems, offers a fully integrated service worker scheduling system, as described in the accompanying OM in Practice on Automated Scheduling for Service Workers
Examples of Scheduling in Services
As stated previously, the scheduling of service workers can be divided into two broad categories "back-of-the-house" operations (where workers do not come into contact with customers) and "front-of-the-house" operations (where workers come into direct contact with the customers). Both types of service scheduling situations are presented here. The staffing requirements for the bank are an example of a back-of-the-house operation, while nurse staffing and scheduling are obviously a front-of-the-house operation.
Setting Staffing Levels in Banks
This example illustrates how central clearinghouses and back-office operations of large banks establish staffing plans. Basically, management wants to develop a staffing plan that (a) requires the least number of workers to accomplish the daily workload and (b) minimizes the variance between actual output and planned output.In structuring the problem, bank management defines inputs (checks, statements, investment documents, and so forth) as products, which are routed through different processes or junctions (receiving, sorting, encoding, and so forth